Iranian Director Jafar Panahi Sentenced to Six Years in Prison, Banned From Making Films

Jafar Panahi - Iranian Film Director - 2010
Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The helmer was accused of making a film without official government sanction and inciting opposition protests.

Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for the next 20 years, the U.K.'s Guardian reported.

Panahi had been accused of inciting opposition protests and making a film without official government sanction. On Monday, the director was convicted of colluding in the gathering and making of propaganda against the regime.

He also was banned from writing scripts, traveling abroad and giving media interviews, his lawyer said, adding that she plans to appeal the conviction.

Muhammad Rasoulof, a filmmaker arrested at the same time as Panahi, was also sentenced to six years in jail Monday.

Panahi drew the ire of Iranian authorities by backing an opposition candidate in last year's presidential elections. When hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term as president, millions took to the streets in massive protest marches, which were violently broken up by the police.

The Iranian government arrested Panahi in March and he spent three months in prison, during which he went on a hunger strike. The film industry -- including director such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and Martin Scorsese -- rallied to his support and called on Tehran to release him.

They did so, on bail of $200,000 a week, in May but Iranian officials prevented Panahi from leaving the country in September to attend the world premiere of his short film The Accordion at the Venice Film Festival.

Earlier this month, Panahi was invited to join the jury of the Berlin International Film Festival for its 2011 edition.

Panahi's credits include Offside, which won Berlin's Silver Bear in 2006, and The Circle, which nabbed the Gold Lion in Venice in 2000. He made his debut with The White Balloon, which nabbed the Festival de Cannes' Camera d'Or in 1995.